Cognitive decline and hearing loss, what’s the link? Medical science has connected the dots between brain health and hearing loss. It was found that even mild neglected hearing loss increases your risk of developing dementia.
These two seemingly unrelated health disorders may have a pathological connection. So how can a hearing exam help decrease the risk of hearing loss related dementia?
Dementia, what is it?
Dementia is a condition that reduces memory ability, clear thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals often think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia probably because it is a common form. Around five million people in the US are impacted by this progressive form of dementia. Today, medical science has a comprehensive understanding of how hearing health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
The ear mechanisms are extremely intricate and each one is important in relation to good hearing. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the brain for decoding by tiny little hairs in the inner ear that vibrate in response to sound waves.
Over the years these tiny hairs can become irreversibly damaged from exposure to loud noise. The outcome is a reduction in the electrical impulses to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
Research reveals that this slow loss of hearing isn’t simply an inconsequential part of aging. Whether the signals are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decipher them anyway. The ears can become strained and the brain exhausted from the added effort to hear and this can ultimately lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for lots of diseases that result in:
- Reduction in alertness
- Inability to master new tasks
- Memory impairment
- Overall diminished health
The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase depending on the degree of your hearing loss, too. Even mild hearing loss can double the danger of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that is more significant will bring the risk up by three times and very severe untreated hearing loss can put you at up to a five times higher risk. Research by Johns Hopkins University tracked the cognitive skills of more than 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They found that hearing loss advanced enough to interfere with conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive problems.
Why is a hearing assessment worthwhile?
Hearing loss impacts the general health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. Most people don’t even know they have hearing loss because it develops so gradually. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less obvious.
Scheduling regular comprehensive exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and observe any decline as it occurs.
Using hearing aids to reduce the danger
The current theory is that strain on the brain from hearing loss plays a major role in cognitive decline and different kinds of dementia. So hearing aids should be capable of decreasing the risk, based on that fact. The strain on your brain will be reduced by using a hearing aid to filter out undesirable background noise while boosting sounds you want to hear. With a hearing aid, the brain won’t work so hard to understand the sounds it’s getting.
There’s no rule that says individuals who have normal hearing won’t end up with dementia. But scientists believe hearing loss speeds up that decline. The key to reducing that risk is regular hearing tests to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an affect on brain health.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, give us a call today to schedule your hearing assessment.